African Women Defining What it Means to Lead

17 01 2012

By Caroline Hope Griffith
DGHI Associate in Research

“I am woman, hear me roar.” Over the past two days, a running theme through the plenary sessions and workshops at the GLI Institute has been the role and challenges of women in African society. In our discussions and conversations, women have been praised as persevering, nurturing, daring, and visionary. Obstacles are everywhere, but are not insurmountable. Below are the stories of two women and their successful work to achieve peace through education and health.

Sharing stories in the "Challenges of Leadership for Women" seminar at the GLI Institute.

Sister Rosemary returned to northern Uganda in the midst of the 1986 war to breathe life back into a rundown tailoring school for girls. She was not experienced as a teacher or a tailor, and she was rejected by the male leader of the school when she arrived. But Sister Rosemary would not take no for an answer. She developed the school into a haven and educational center for girls returning from years of captivity in the rebel camps run by the Lord’s Resistance Army. The girls came home with children conceived in captivity, and both mother and child were rejected by their families and communities. St. Monica’s provided these girls and their children with a home and an opportunity to learn a craft, rebuild their self-worth, and become productive members of their communities.

Dr. Sabina Mtweve from Tanzania teaches community health at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) in Moshi, Tanzania (KCMC is a long standing partner of the Duke Global Health Institute) and runs a women-led non-profit organization to address HIV/AIDS in the community. In addition, she has mobilized local churches to support a program to decrease unsafe abortions among girls who become pregnant under “undesirable” circumstances and are rejected by their families. Instead of having nowhere to turn and opting for an unsafe abortion, Dr. Mtweve works with churches to establish and equip a safe place for these women to stay. She also has negotiated free antenatal care and access to safe delivery at a nearby health facility. Once girls deliver their babies, Dr. Mtweve is surprised and overjoyed to see the families of these girls come to take them back in, an example of how efforts to address women’s health can promote reconciliation within a family and the broader community.

As an emerging female leader myself, these women are powerful examples of how women from different backgrounds are stepping out of the roles traditionally assigned to them and using their gifts and experiences to make important contributions to their communities.




2 responses

17 01 2012
Josiah Smelser

Excellent entry Caroline. There are some amazing stories in Africa, and I am glad you and your organization are there to promote peace and health in East Africa. May God bless your time there and the people you come in contact with.

15 02 2012

Hey Lovely. Its so great that we get to see a small insight into what wonderful work you have been and continue to do in your life. I think this entry is my favorite. Giving these woman the chance to take back much of what was taken from them is such an important idea and struck a personal chord with me (and I’m sure a lot of woman around the world). It is work like this, in particular, that inspires me to want to help and “reach out” in my own pocket of life. What an amazing thing to know that you are making a true difference in so many people lives. xx

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